Lots of people watch my videos on how to take notes on articles or books. Way more watch these videos than could be students. Way more people watch these videos than publish their work.
That means lots of people are stuck watching how to take notes and never do anything with those notes.
Today I’m going to talk about the importance of taking those notes and learning in public. If you’re not sharing your research, then you’re handicapping yourself greatly.
## Forces Better Understanding
The biggest reason that you should share everything you’re learning is that it’s going to force you to ensure you understand the topic. When you have to condense your knowledge into something that someone else can understand easily, you are forced to check for holes in your knowledge and fill them.
When I started this article I had two points and the knowledge that there was more behind the idea of learning public. I did a bit more research and outlining and you have the content you’re reading now, a few thousand words on the benefits of learning in public.
Some of the resources I found I thought were bad, but some filled in my ideas or gave me new ideas. If I had kept my thoughts about the benefits of learning in public to myself I wouldn’t understand my thoughts with the depth I do now.
This same idea holds when I show off different software applications. If I was simply looking at them for myself I’d probably miss lots of features that they have. Recently with [NotePlan 2], I didn’t catch how it deals with repeating tasks until I was recording the video. Then I realized that I made a mistake earlier and one of the big holes I thought existed in the iOS/iPadOS application didn’t exist. I had just missed a feature. If I hadn’t done the work to try and show the application off that hole would have remained in my knowledge.
Planning to share my knowledge means that I understand the software that I use much better and that makes me more productive.
## Helps your Written or Verbal Skills
Last week I got a question about how to improve your writing skills if you’re not a native English speaker but need to write and speak in English. Having helped a bunch of people do this while I was in college my advice is, to write something every week and find someone that will give you a critique on it.
The only reason that I’m comfortable with video now is because I have hundreds of videos done. The only reason I write decently is because I have written thousands of blog posts over 12 years. I have readers email me with mistakes almost every week (Thanks to Jon), and I try not to make them again. I watch my early videos sometimes still and don’t love them, but I watch to make sure that I continue to improve.
Now when I’m asked to speak publicly on short notice at a local event, I don’t worry about it. I say yes and put some notes together, then fall back on my experience giving presentations to help me through.
Going hand in hand with improving your written and verbal skills is new skill acquisition. Before I started doing iPad videos, I didn’t know how to edit video. I had done some screencasts on my Mac before, but nothing quite like I do now. Learning in public, and choosing video as a delivery medium meant that I had to learn how to edit videos.
Since I learned to edit videos I’ve been paid to edit videos. One guy I see regularly on a local run does some quick product videos and doesn’t always have the time to edit. He now sends me a video or so a month to edit and turn over for him. They’re easy and I’m continuing to expand my video skills while creating a new business revenue stream.
I’ve also used my video editing skills to produce a video for my kid’s school to get a grant for the library. I’ve done videos for the local figure skating club which helps them get more skaters and keeps it running for my wife (a coach) and my kids who skate.
Without sharing my learning in public, I wouldn’t have developed those opportunities.
## Other People Share With You
I’m fairly firmly an introvert. Needing to stay home and not hang out with people for months wasn’t that big a burden for me. I kept doing what I normally do. The only big change was having my kids on top of me all the time in the house.
But the truth is that most big innovation doesn’t come from the lone genius, it comes from people in collaboration bouncing ideas off each other.
> First and foremost is that creativity is a collaborative process. Innovation comes from teams more often than lightbulb moments of lone geniuses. This was true of every are of creative ferment. [Innovators Page 479]
Learning in public helps this type of idea mixing. Looking back to my video on [my ideal time blocking task manager], I got no less than 10 good suggestions for applications and workflows that would fit with my needs. The chances of me finding all of these on my own is vanishingly small, but since I shared my ideas in public the burden of learning wasn’t only on me.
While people benefitted from my ideas, I got to benefit from the free exchange of their ideas.
## A Bad Reason to Learn in Public
One of the reasons I saw mentioned lots for why it’s a good idea to learn in public is that it will “build your audience” or some variation of social sharing and marketing. While I think this is a fine side effect of learning in public, I think it’s a terrible reason to learn in public.
The videos that are most watched on my channel, are the least helpful in my learning. I enjoy learning about software and then sharing my learning, but most people watching those videos are going to keep looking for some ideal piece of software and never produce much of value. They’ll keep blaming their lack of productivity on some piece of software.
The problem is almost always you. Seldom is the problem with your tools.
Yes, your audience will grow, but share your learning for you. Because it helps you fill in gaps in your learning. Because it improves the skills you want to have. Because it lets you benefit from sharing in other’s resources.
If your entire plan is to build a YouTube channel, you’re going to burn out and stop sharing long before you get traction.
## But…I don’t know that much
Finally, you only have to be one step ahead of someone to have good knowledge to share. The problem with only experts sharing their knowledge is that they forget the problems that beginners have.
When I was learning to program I followed so many tutorials that said some variation of “type `vim file.php` and edit the file”. I had no idea that `vim` invoked a code editor that was controlled only from the keyboard. All I knew was that I typed it and then couldn’t type into the file that came up. I had no idea how to save it, or why sometimes when I mashed the keys I could suddenly type.
I must have quite vim 50 times before I figured out what was going on. I know I stopped learning about programming many times over months as I got stuck with that one problem and couldn’t move forward.
Now, vim is my preferred code editor. I use it every day and love it. I’ve tried other code editors, but always head back to vim because it’s the best.
All I needed in one of those first months was someone to say:
> Type `vim file.php` (if you don’t know what vim is [check this link out]) and edit the file
But since every piece of content assumed you knew what vim was I was trapped in my lack of knowledge.
If you read my programming posts now, you’ll often see lots of little links to other things that I may not have time to cover in detail, but you may need to know to understand the tutorial.
When you’re a beginner you know these things because you’re learning them. Share your content, and make sure that you don’t leave beginners behind.
When you’re at any level of experience, share your knowledge because it’s going to help you understand any topic better. Because others will share back with you and you’ll benefit from that sharing. Share because it helps you build skills that will benefit your career/life long term. Don’t share because it will build an audience, that’s simply a side effect.
: https://curtismchale.ca/2020/07/24/noteplan-2-overview “NotePlan 2 walk through”
: https://amzn.to/2WyiP1t “Purchase The Innovators”